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Anti-Israel bias found in 2 Independent papers

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In February this year, representatives of the SAJBD and SAZF met in Cape Town with Iqbal Survé, chairman of the Sekunjalo Group that owns Independent News & Media, to discuss the mounting anti-Israel bias of the Independent papers and specifically The Star and Cape Times.
by DAVID SAKS | Nov 02, 2016

The meeting came in the wake of mounting outrage in the Jewish community over the hostile manner in which Israel was being portrayed, and how, correspondingly, the views of radical anti-Israel lobby groups were being overtly promoted, in both news reports and opinion pieces.

Most recently, such partisanship had been especially pronounced in the way The Star and Cape Times in particular, had covered such issues as the previous year’s visit to South Africa of a Hamas delegation, the activities of the local BDS movement (including visits of their overseas guests) and assertions - later shown to be baseless - that South Africa had undertaken to enforce Turkish arrest warrants against four of Israel’s military commanders if they ever entered the country.

During the meeting, and in a subsequent statement given to the SA Jewish Report, Survé emphasised that Independent Media did not have a policy of being either pro-Israel or pro-Palestine and indeed would guard against such a thing.

As a way forward, it was agreed that an external media analysis of the two papers in question would be solicited, after which a follow-up meeting would be arranged to discuss the findings.

The SAJBD duly contracted BaseMedia, an independent, research-based organisation, to analyse all Israel-related coverage both retrospectively and for the following six months. The researchers gave monthly progress report-backs, illustrated by graphs and other technical detail.

Virtually from the outset, these indicated that there had been systematic bias against Israel on the part of the Cape Times and The Star. While other Independent newspapers that were looked at did not have as pronounced a slant, none were found to have depicted Israel positively. 

In the final report’s key findings, it was observed that a discernible pattern had emerged whereby “negativity on Israel in each newspaper emerged in opinion/editorial pieces”, with the onus of providing balance, via letters to the editor, being placed on readers.

The newspapers were thus themselves “a key in driving negativity on Israel” while relying solely on letter-driven external parties to present a different side to the arguments.

On this, the report commented: “Having a conversation with your readership is important, but this approach to news reporting often sees the paper continuously starting the conversation from the same position. In order to strive for some balance, there is a need for editorial/opinion coverage that is not so one-sided but more constructive in terms of framing issues.”

How a debate is framed depends very much on what sources a journalist chooses to use. In this regard, a second key finding of the report was that the sources quoted in articles were often themselves negative, which in turn “reinforced the overall criticism directed towards Israel”. To ensure balance, journalists needed to consult a wide variety of sources with varying opinions.

In terms of tonality, it was found that in both the Cape Times and The Star there had been “consistently high levels of negativity directed towards news coverage concerning Israel”.

Amazingly, the only topic that received a more negative tonality rating than Israel was the Islamic State. While it was acknowledged that “negative news sells” and that no-one expected editors to automatically balance negative content by positive, it was clear that any opinion-based coverage directed at Israel was usually critical, while the positive coverage tended to be so little as to be “insignificant within the total scale of coverage”.

There was hence “a definite need for a more optimistic approach when it comes to reporting on some of the news coming out of Israel”.

BaseMedia will present its findings at a follow-up meeting between Survé, the SAJBD and SAZF, to take place later this month. SAJBD National Chairman Jeff Katz stressed that no-one was demanding of the Independent papers that they be a pro-Israel Zionist mouthpiece, but that their reporting and commentary on Israel, and indeed the entire Middle East, must provide a representative range of perspectives, including those supportive of Israel and Zionism.    

“We accept that there are many diverse and strongly-held views on this subject and understand that sometimes there will be reports or opinion pieces that are critical of particular Israeli actions and policies” he said.

“What we regard as totally unacceptable, however, is how certain newspapers have consistently singled out Israel for one-sided, often vitriolic attacks, while at the same time uncritically promoted organisations which are opposed not only to certain things that Israel has done, but to the Jewish state’s very existence.”

Speaking at a “Reporting Racism” conference earlier this month, The Star’s current opinion pages editor openly acknowledged that the paper, as well as the Cape Times, was committed to expressing a view “in favour of Palestinian liberation and against the settler colonialism that Israel practices”.  

1 Comment

  1. 1 nat cheiman 02 Nov
    Im surprised that any Jews read Lekbal Surves rag.
    It is biased, full of drivel and many of their  journalists lack talent.


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